ATM Woes, Chichibu and Trailer Life

On the Monday after the last Fukui rehearsal I finally travelled to Chichibu. But of course it wasn’t as easy as that. I had to take the train at 5:30am, because I hadn’t realised that only special ticket offices exchange vouchers for the JR Rail Pass. Fukui is not one of then, so I had to schedule extra time in Kanazawa.

However, I had not yet paid the hotel. After a spontaneous dinner on Sunday night with Wendel Broere, who had come to watch the rehearsal, there was nobody at the hotel reception. And I didn’t have enough cash. And – a common trap for Japan visitors – no ATM accepting foreign cards was open. Yes, I walked around central Fukui for an hour trying to find one. So, I either had to leave without paying or change my plans at 1am. In the end I came up with the – in my mind ingenious – solution of writing a note in my best hiragana (and with the help of some translation technology) giving my apologies and card number. Of course that didn’t work, because without the PIN the card couldn’t be charged. To be continued …

Chichibu is a small town in the mountains at the foot of Mt. Bukoh with a population of about 60,000. In the taiko world it is obviously famous for its 夜祭 (Yomatsuri, Night Festival), but this is actually only one, albeit biggest, of a large number of festivals and ceremonies. Chichibu is the home to 34 Buddhist temples, which constitute a pilgrimage route, the Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary (秩父三十四箇所, Chichibu Sanjūyon-kasho).

Mt Bukoh from Seibu-Chichibu

Kaki sensei picked me up at the station and drove me to the trailer. It is a big old American Dutchmen trailer and is actually as old as it looks. But is in good shape and quite cozy inside. It even has its own Web site; I’m sure there are not many of those around.

Chichibu TrailerChichibu Trailer Interior

This trailer is fantastic, because finding practice space in Japan is notoriously difficult. Practicing obviously inconveniences the neighbours, and while in the West there’s a more cavalier attitude, here it’s actually inappropriate. But then, living conditions in the West are usually less cramped. In the trailer I can practice till 10pm, comparable to my 11pm curfew at home.

Trailer life is as is to be expected: it feels like a long camping trip. There’s no insulation, which in the current heat and humidity is a bit uncomfortable at times, but the air conditioning unit and fan help. The telephone has been disconnected, but there’s a mobile data box and Skype Out is quite cheap as I discovered. And I can use the mobile data box everywhere – very nice!